Monday, October 25, 2010

I am an HBP (and proud of it)

Hi, let me do a quick (re)introduction. My name is JD. I'm closer to 50 than I'd like to be; and getting closer... I have a wonderful wife of 22 years, 3 children, and a granddaughter. I work as a Project Manager at a large corporation. I have a great church that I enjoy going to, and I am the coordinator there for short term mission trips we do to Mexico and Haiti. Oh, and I like to ride my bike; which makes me an HBP (Horrible Bike Person). Luckily, I feel like I'm in pretty good company. Let me tell you about a few other HBP's that I know (names changed to protect the innocent).

Janice is a married mom with three young children; two boys and a little girl she adopted because she felt like she could make a difference for at least that one child. She does all the normal, wonderful stuff moms do like taking care of her family and spending fun time with her friends. She also spends a fair amount of her time volunteering in various capacities. Janice likes to ride her bike as part of her overall effort to get back into a healthier lifestyle after years of devoting much of her time and energy into raising her children.

Kristen is a very nice lady who's gone through some real tough times. She lost her husband to cancer a number of years ago, and then had a tough battle with cancer herself. She spends a lot of her time helping others; volunteering as board member for the local running and tri clubs, and organizing a 5K run each year with all proceeds going to benefit victims of Parkinson's Disease. Her focus on health and wellness led her to the world of triathlon, so Kristen spends a lot of time out on the roads riding her bike.

Dave is a married father with three young boys. He's a great family man, devoted to his wife and kids. He works hard at his job, and volunteers at his church helping with the toddlers. He also spends a lot of his free time fixing up bikes that he gives to underprivileged kids. Dave is an avid bicyclist who enjoys getting outside in the fresh air and maintaining his health so he has more energy to chase around those boys : )

Susan is another person trying to get back to a healthy lifestyle. She recently completed one of the Livestrong Challenge rides to raise support for cancer victims, on behalf of her roommate who has been fighting a battle with lymphoma. This ride was a significant challenge for Susan, and she spent a lot of her evenings and weekends riding her bike in order to prepare for it. She's really enjoyed the bike rides, and will continue getting out there staying fit and raising awareness for Livestrong.

Yes, all these people and so many more that I am aware of are Horrible Bike People. I'm not sure I understand why that label should apply, but it is pretty clear that it does. You can tell by the way drivers on the road honk, yell, flip us off, throw things, swerve into the shoulder of the road to brush by close to us, etc. It seems like at least once a week I'm reading about a member of the biking community that ends up killed or seriously injured in some type of run-in with a vehicle. Saddest of all is that there are inevitably comments made by people along the lines of "they got what they deserved." Really?!? The death penalty for riding a bike? This is supposedly because bikers cause massive interference with traffic. I just don't believe that's accurate or true in most cases. The vast majority of bike riders, like myself and the folks mentioned above, make a tremendous effort to keep out of the way of traffic (we're very well aware that WE LOSE in any type of mishap with a vehicle). Whenever possible we ride on less-traveled roads, especially ones with large shoulders... We make sure to stay to the right of the roadway or shoulder... etc. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule that ride stupidly and/or recklessly - But the same can be said for the car, truck, and motorcycle drivers, right? As a matter of fact, here's a challenge for you:

Think back over your last week or so of driving. How many times has a car or other vehicle created traffic problems for you by driving too slow in the left lane, or cutting out in front of you, or slowing down in the traffic lane instead of using the turn lane, or something similar/worse? I bet it's more than a few! Now, how many times in the last week have you had traffic issues of any kind that involved a bicyclist? Hmmmm... probably not too many. So why the hatred? Perhaps because we just seem out of place, that's the most frequent comment after all - "Get off the road!". Really? Where do we go? And read this paragraph again and think about it... are we *really* causing you a problem? Or are you just frustrated and angry, and we are convenient and easy targets?

HBP's... I can't let you off the hook completely. All too often I've seen you riding two or three wide and ignoring the cars backed up behind you, running thru traffic signals like they don't apply, making poor choices on where/when to ride (like a curvy road with no shoulder during heavy traffic times)... That type of riding is not only dangerous, but it adds to the aggravation of the drivers in their vehicles, which just reinforces their anti-cyclist sentiment. Let's make sure we are doing our part to share the road.

Back to the vehicle drivers, though - next time try to think about who it might be riding that bicycle down the road. It is convenient to think of them as all yahoo freaks out there messing with your roads; but the reality is that they are mothers, brothers, grandpas and grandmas, children, friends, neighbors... just normal people who enjoy riding their bikes as a way to keep healthy and enjoy some time outdoors. Maybe it's one of your neighbors, maybe somebody that goes to your church, your kids' teacher, a friend of the family... Or maybe it is a true HBP doing ignorant things, but that still doesn't mean they deserve serious injury or death. And make no mistake, some of these aggressive actions by drivers result in just that... and somehow I doubt that there are many of you who truly want to maim or kill an innocent person (if you are such a person, I'm pretty sure you would have quit reading by now; and would already be grumbling to anyone near you about Horrible Bike People and how you're gonna take one out if they get in your way).

Stay safe,

PS: If you are an HBP, or know someone that is; please come clean and add a comment below to describe yourself and why you ride.

Update/Edit July 2011: The lady who submitted the text for the second comment was recently hit by a car that "did not see her". Luckily she came through with no major injuries; but she did have a painful recovery with injuries to her wrist and ankles/feet; as well as a large amount of road rash and bruising.


  1. My name is Scott (we dont want people to know BBD wrote this) and I bike because I can. I bike for all of those who cant anymore. I bike for a purpose. Then main reason why I tried out for Team Roll is because they are a charity riding team. We ride for charity and to bring awareness to others that biking is actually a fun, healthy lifestyle.

    This is probably the best post I have read in a long, long time. Thanks JD, I will admit, I have made my share of mistakes on the road, but I have also seen my fair share of mistakes as well as intentional acts by others driving. Honestly, the only way something will change is if someone real famous is killed on a bike before biker rights are more protected. Its sad but true. I dont know if you ever been on The Ride for Silence, its held every year, where cyclist, on the same day, across the nation, meet up in different cities and ride in complete silence. It was a very humbling experience, one I will not ever forget.

  2. From my friend Kat:

    Hi JD, I’m an HBP. I’ve loved bicycles for as long as I can remember. My first memories are as a 3 yo on a tricycle riding along fast as the wind, a smile and little blonde curls waving behind! A new pink and white stingray bike! Ridin...g a 10 speed as young teen, riding on a friends handle bars, on a shared saddle! Riding with Liana, my toddler daughter, behind me in the kid seat. Lung surgery after a few years of numerous unexplained spontaneous pneumothoraces. Then riding with Jake, my infant son, in the kid seat. My first squishy mtn bike! My first century ride, first MS150, first endo, first chain ring “tattoo “, my first team jersey, riding in a peloton, seeing 42mph on my bike computer riding down a hill for the first time! Riding a rigid frame mtn bike with slicks on group road ride, borrowing a girlfriend’s bike for my first Danskin triathlon, then riding a bike that a friend and I put together and this year riding the Danskin course set time on my beautiful carbon frame road bike! My first Time Trial race! The sound of all those bike tires rounding a corner at a crit gives me feel good goose bumps! Watching Justin, Liana and Jake ride fills me with joy!

    A few years ago I saw Justin get hit by a car while we were riding home from a training ride. I was more traumatized than he was. The man driving the mid-sized SUV turned right in front of us. He stopped after Justin bounced off the right front fender, bounced off the right rear tire-well then rolled into the intersection, said he saw us but didn’t think we were going that fast, with the flow of traffic. Traffic stopped instantly. Surprisingly, Justin didn’t get hurt, just two nickel-sized scrapes on the inside of his knees. His bike was ok, a scrape on the right handle-bar near the endcap. 2 police cars, Fire Dept, EMS, a Sheriff, undercover police, a motorcycle patrol officer and numerous civilians all came to the rescue. Now there is a traffic light at that intersection. We had the right of way. I vowed I wouldn’t ride on that road anymore and haven’t since. A note to non-cyclists: It is much more difficult to slow/stop a bicycle going 20-25mph than it is to stop a car at that speed.

    I wave at drivers that honk, it might be a friend!